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Europe

France: Movement debates next steps in resistance to government attacks

By Chris Latham

November 14, 2010 -- Green Left Weekly -- President Nicolas Sarkozy enacted a new law on November 10 that increases the retirement age of French workers. The move came just days after more than a million workers and students mobilised across France against the law.

The November 6 protests were the eighth national strike and protests since September 7 against the bill — although it was the easily the smallest of the mobilisations.

The protest highlighted the depth of ongoing popular anger over the changes, which were pushed through parliament on October 27. However, the decline in the size of the protests reflects growing divisions in the movement over its direction now the law has been passed.

Sarkozy enacted the law just hours after it had been approved by the Constitutional Council. There had been hopes among some union leaders and left groups that the council would reject the bill.

Roma punks rise at the right time

“To hell with your double standards — we’re coming rougher every time!”Gogol Bordello’s film clip for their defiant immigrant rights song “Immigraniada".

By Stuart Munckton

October 26, 2010“My next guests are a gypsy punk rock band that have been called the world’s most visionary band”, US TV show host Jay Leno said when he introduced Gogol Bordello to close the October 13, 2010. Jay Leno Show.

The US-based band, led by a charismatic Roma (or “gypsy”) refugee from the Ukraine, Eugene Hutz, performed “Pala Tute”, the opening track from this year’s Transcontinental Hustle.

If “most visionary” is an exaggeration, Gogol Bordello could at least lay claim to being one of the most interesting and important acts in popular music right now.

`French workers and people show the way in resisting attacks' -- solidarity from Philippines, Australia, Indonesia

Demonstration in Lyon, central France, October 16, 2010. AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani, Boston.com.
For more on the French workers' upsurge, click HERE.

France: Workers, students fight attacks on pensions, oppose austerity (+ photo essay)

High school students join a demonstration against attacks on pensions rights in Paris, October 14, 2010. AP Photo/Francois Mori from Boston.com.

By Chris Latham

October 24, 2010 -- Green Left Weekly -- Since October 12, France has been gripped by intensifying mass opposition by workers and students to proposed counter reforms to the country’s pensions system by the right-wing government of President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Public opposition to the attack has been highlighted by three national strikes each involving millions of people, two national student strikes and a growing wave of indefinite strikes in a range of industries — most notably the crippling shutdown of the oil industry.

Despite the size and intensity of the mobilisations, the Sarkozy government remains defiant, insisting the changes to the pension system are essential to France’s future. The government has threatened to repress attempts to disrupt France’s economic life.

France: The movement is far from over; Olivier Besancenot defends mass mobilisations to defeat Sarkozy

The New Anti-Capitalist Party's Olivier Besancenot.

By Sandra Demarcq

October 23, 2010 -- International Viewpoint -- Since May, the political situation in France has been marked by the mobilisations against changes to the pension law. Days of mobilisation succeed days of mobilisation, the movement against pension "reform" continues to develop and put down roots. It is the confirmation of a profound movement massively rejecting not only [the pension changes] but more broadly French President Nicholas Sarkozy’s anti-social, racist and authoritarian policies as a whole. But also the injustices accumulated and accentuated by the economic crisis, whether among the young or among wage earners.

Was Karl Marx `Eurocentric'?

Marx at the Margins: On Nationalism, Ethnicity and Non-Western Societies
By Kevin B. Anderson
University of Chicago Press, 2010, 336  pages

Eurocentrism
By Samir Amin
Monthly Review Press, 1988 (second edition 2009), 288 pages

Reviews by Barry Healy

October 22, 2010 -- In the foundational text of the Marxist movement, the Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels paint a vivid word picture of the awesome, world-shaking advance of capitalism.

The East-Indian and Chinese markets, the colonisation of America, trade with the colonies, the increase in the means of exchange and in commodities generally gave to commerce, to navigation, to industry, an impulse never before known, and thereby, to the revolutionary element in the tottering feudal society, a rapid development.

Germany: Greens' support surges as two-party system unravels

Chairperson of the German Greens' parliamentary group in the Bundestag Renate Künast.

By Duroyan Fertl

October 17, 2010 -- Green Left Weekly -- Coasting on the back of environmental protests and a hemorrhaging two-party system, the German Greens have sent shock waves through German politics, surging into the position of main opposition party for the first time.

The Greens party, which was part of a coalition government with the Social Democratic Party (SPD) from 1998-2005 at the expense of many of the party’s principles, is benefiting from the unraveling of Germany’s traditional two-party system.

Nevertheless, the two major parties — the centre-right Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union coalition (CDU/CSU) and the centre-left SPD — retain a monopoly over government in Europe’s biggest economy.

But the facade appears to be truly falling apart at last. Opinion polls in early October put the Greens on 24%, one point ahead of the SPD.

France: An explosive situation; Huge protests against pension law

September 7 rally of 1.1 million in Paris after the pension changes were presented in parliament by Sarkozy’s labour minister. Photo: Wagingnonviolence.org.

By Sandra Demarcq 

October 11, 2010 -- International Viewpoint -- The political situation in France is dominated by the mobilisations against the proposed "reform" of the pension system [that will dramatically reduce the right of workers to access pensions]. This is at the heart of French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s austerity policy. Although it is presented as an obvious demographic necessity, it is meeting increasing opposition in public opinion.

Basque Country: Armed struggle ends, mass struggle continues

Basque trade unionists protest against the capitalist crisis.

By Jack Ferguson

September 8, 2010 -- Scottish Socialist Youth -- On September 5, 2010, the Basque armed group Euskadi Ta Azkatasuna (Basque Homeland and Freedom, ETA), which has fought an armed struggle for Basque freedom for decades, released a video declaring that several months ago it had decided to stop armed actions, and announced a ceasefire.

In its statement, ETA said:

Sweden: Far-right election gains met with spontaneous mass protests

On September 20, 2010 -- the day after the Swedish general election -- 10,000 people in Stockholm protested against the far-right Swedish Democrats party.

By Johann Sommansson

September 23, 2010 -- The counting of votes in the September 19 Swedish parliamentary elections sent out shock waves. The far right made its parliamentary debut, and for the first time in modern Swedish political history an incumbent non-Social Democrats government has been able to win a national election. As such, the process of dismantling the Swedish welfare state is set to continue unabated.

Netherlands: Today Islamophobia is the main form taken by racism

Young Dutch Muslims.

By Peter Drucker

August 29, 2010 -- Since the rise of Pim Fortuyn in 2002, Islamophobia has played a central role in Dutch politics. Geert Wilders and his Freedom Party have now emerged as a threat to all progressive forces. There is no point in trying to change the subject and hoping the danger will pass; Islamophobia has to be confronted head on. But intelligently – knee-jerk defences of anything a Muslim says or does will definitely not help.

To be clear: in the Netherlands today Islamophobia is the main form taken by racism. It has nothing to do with criticism of Islam as a religion. If Wilders and his followers say that not one more Muslim should be allowed into the country, they don’t mean that Moroccan and Turkish Christians and atheists are welcome. "Muslim" is for them simply a convenient epithet for "those other people".

Socialist Resistance statement on the banning of the veil

By Socialist Resistance (Britain)

July 26, 2010 -- Throughout Europe there is a growing movement that seeks to ban Muslim women who chose to do so from wearing the veil. In Britain today this demand comes mainly from the far-right British National Party (BNP), UK Independence Party (UKIP) and some individuals on the Conservative Party (Tory) right. Things though may change for the worse, already the Tory tabloids are stirring on this question.

This is but one part of a growing Islamophobic trend which has seen Muslim minorities become even more marginalised and demonised in Western Europe than they were previously. Though this demand originated on the far right it is now increasingly taken up by the mainstream bourgeois parties culminating in the recent decision of the French parliament to make wearing the veil a criminal offence. In France what is equally shameful is the failure of most of the French left to oppose it in any meaningful way, members of the Greens, the Socialist Party and the Communist Party having abstained on this law in the French parliament.

Banning the veil: Rights of women or anti-Islamic racism and communalism?

July 21, 2010 -- On July 13, the parliament of France, on the eve of Bastille Day, voted 335 to one in favour of preventing Muslim women wearing a full face-covering veil in public. The July 13 Le Monde said the new law was strongly supported by the right. The Socialist Party, Communist Party (PCF) and Green Party abstained. Anyone who chooses to wear a face covering on religious grounds now faces a fine of 150 euros or a “citizenship course”. The law does not come into effect until spring 2011 to allow a period of “education”. There is also a year in prison and a fine of 30,000 euros for anyone found guilty of forcing a woman to wear a veil, a penalty which is doubled if the “victim is a minor”.

Earlier this year, the Indian organisation Radical Socialist issued a statement taking up this wave of Islamophobic legislation in Europe.

* * *

Statement by the Radical Socialist organisation, India

Why Catalonia stood up on July 10

By Dick Nichols

July 12, 2010 -- When up to 1.5 million people flooded the streets of Barcelona on July 10, 2010, in an enormous demonstration -- behind a lead banner proclaiming, “We are a nation, we decide” -- the most optimistic forecasts were exceeded. The huge protest was against the Constitutional Court’s rejection of the  constitutionality of Catalonia’s Statute of Autonomy. Even the most conservative and Spanish-nationalist media had to admit that this was one of the biggest demonstrations since the end of the Franco dictatorship, and the most important in the history of Catalan nationalism.

The demonstration was endorsed by more than 500 groups, including the parties that make up 88% of the Catalan parliament, Catalan trade union organisations large and small, the Peasants Union,and scores of migrant, community and cultural organisations.

The only parties that opposed the demonstration were the right-wing Popular Party (PP), formerly in power in the Spanish state but only the fourth-largest parliamentary force in Catalonia, and Citizens, a movement of Castilian (Spanish) speakers resentful of pro-Catalan language policy.

Greece: At the forefront of Europe's class struggle

Athens demonstrators' banner, with photos of Greek PM George Papandreou and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, reads "Us or them -- Struggle for our lives". May 20, 2010, national 24-hour general strike. Photo: EPA/ORESTIS PANAGIOTOU.

By Dimitris Fasfalis

June 7, 2010 -- Socialist Voice -- Workers in Greece today stand in the forefront of the converging European class struggles against big capital’s attempt to make working people pay the costs of its crisis.

Krise i Hellas – reaksjonær understrøm i Europa

Av Paul Kellogg

Den voksende massebevegelsen og åpningen mot venstre i Hellas er oppmuntrende.
Det er i den bevegelsen det ligger håp om at det en gang kan vokse fram et virkelig progressivt Europa.

Olivier Besancenot: `We are all Greek workers!'


General strike, Athens, May 20, 2010. Photos by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE). Made with Slideshow Embed Tool

By Olivier Besancenot and Pierre-François Grond, translated by Richard Fidler and Nathan Rao

May 14, 2010 -- Le Monde via The Bullet -- The events in Greece concern us all. The Greek people are paying for a crisis and a debt not of their making. Today it is the Greeks, tomorrow it will be others, for the same causes will produce the same effects if we allow it.

Greek crisis reveals ‘progressive’ Europe’s reactionary stew

By Paul Kellogg

May 3, 2010 -- The bailout of the debt-ridden Greek government seems finally to be complete. The European Union (EU) – most centrally the French and German treasuries – along with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will provide €110 billion ($150 billion) in emergency loans. The price for these loans will be high. Along with steep tax increases and cuts in spending, the loans are conditional on a public sector wage freeze being extended through to 2014.[1] This is in reality a wage cut, as there will be drastic changes to the so-called “bonuses” – holiday pay that has become an essential part of the income package of low-paid public sector workers.

The anger at these cuts is everywhere in Greek society. Giorgos Papadapoulos is a 28-year-old policeman who normally confronts demonstrators. But in March he put aside his riot shield and joined the mass protests which have become a regular part of life in Greece. “It’s a different feeling for me”, he told journalists while he was on the demonstration. “But this is important. It hurts me and my family.”[2] However, the crisis in Greece has revealed not just a shift to the left in Europe. It has also brought to the surface a seamy reactionary underside to politics in the EU portion of the Eurasian landmass.

Europe: Solidarity with the resistance of the Greek workers (updated May 9)

Greek workers stage general strike, March 2010.

April 30, 2010

1. The global economic crisis continues. Massive amounts of money have been injected into the financial system – US$14 trillion in bailouts in the United States, Britain and the eurozone, $1.4 trillion in new bank loans in China last year – in an effort to restabilise the world economy. But it remains an open question whether or not these efforts will be enough to produce a sustainable recovery. Growth remains very sluggish in the advanced economies, while unemployment continues to rise. There are fears that a new financial bubble centred this time on China is developing. The protracted character of the crisis – which is the most severe since the Great Depression – reflects its roots in the very nature of capitalism as a system.

Greece: Driven into crisis

Workers in Greece protest government attacks on wages and benefits.

By Ingo Schmidt

April 27, 2010 -- The Bullet -- Neoliberal order reigns in the world. Stock markets are recovering from the crash in the fall of 2008. Private banks are no longer weighed down by bad loans that were added to public deficits. The latter were rising anyway because the economic crisis had sent tax revenues on a downward slide. Add further bailout money for financial companies and fiscal stimulus and you get a veritable fiscal crisis of the state.

Meanwhile, rating agencies like Moody's and Standard and Poor's cast judgement on the viability of fiscal deficits and public sector cuts, as if their assessments of the financial sector had nothing to do with the "manias, panics and crashes" that pushed a cyclical recession near depression in the first place. Public deficits between 12% and 13% of GDP in Britain and the US are bad, they say, but not so bad that the austerity measures they consider appropriate can't be left to Number 10 Downing Street and the White House.

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